The nine cities include Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Indore, Bhopal, Pune, Jaipur, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam
India is pressing ahead with the bus rapid transport system (BRTS)—which entails dedicated lanes for high capacity, low floor buses—in at least nine other cities.
BRTS is a crucial tool to provide smooth and affordable facility to the commuters.
At present, India's Urban Development Ministry is helping BRTS projects in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat—three important cities of Gujarat—while Indore and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh are also implementing them.
The other cities where BRTS projects are coming up are Pune in Maharashtra, Jaipur in Rajasthan, and Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The total estimated cost of all the nine projects is Rs 3,300 crore.
When BRTS was introduced in the national capital in April-May this year, there was chaos on the roads and long traffic jams as people were not aware of the right lanes, traffic lights did not work, bus stands were found to be in wrong places among other things.
But with some modifications, the authorities say, the project is running smoothly along a 5.6 km-stretch in the city. However, it has not been extended to other parts after the controversy. Even today many residents say they avoid the BRTS route.
"BRTS is globally recognised as one of the most cost effective solutions for providing high quality public transport service in urban areas," Ramachandran said.
The BRTS is operational in the world's major cities like Mexico City, Sao Paulo, BogotÃ¡, Santiago, Lima, and also Beijing, Taipei and Hanoi, where it has proved a hit with the masses.
BRTS projects in the nine Indian cities, apart from Delhi, are being financially helped by the federal government under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), an important government scheme aimed at integrated development of urban infrastructure.
"Though the state governments are free to have their own BRTS projects, the union government will extend financial support to such projects as stipulated under JNNURM," the Urban Development Secretary said.
With transport services likely to pose a major challenge in India—where the urban population is officially being projected at 538 million by 2021, marked by 51 cities with million plus population—BRTS is one of the systems the authorities are banking on.
"There are other modes of public transport being put in place as well. There are already metro projects in Bangalore, Kolkata and Mumbai. Still, we hope to get more BRTS projects for other major cities," Ramachandran said.
Good public transport can reverse the trend of opting for personal vehicles. Delhi alone has over 5.2 million vehicles.
"It will be a great achievement indeed if we have lesser number of private vehicles on roads in a city as large as Delhi or for that matter any other big city. A satisfying public transportation system is the only way out," Ramachandran agreed.
The implementing agency for BRTS Delhi Integrated Multimodal Transit System Transport Head Manoj Aggarwal said, "Advance and effective planning for better urban transportation is the need of the hour."
As urbanisation is taking place so fast, fine-tuned modes of urban public transportation have to be put in place; BRTS is one of them, Aggarwal said.